When we organize our protests and we defy all the unjust laws that are in place and we are in the street holding our placards and marching, we feel like complete, whole citizens and that freedom that we make and demand is so contagious and that makes us feel whole. It makes us feel relevant. Our children see us marching and they realize that freedom is what you demand, what you make of it.
“What keeps me going and what keeps us all as women going is that, for once in our lives in the history of Zimbabwe, we managed to create a platform where we speak with one voice, looking at the needs of a woman, an ordinary person, without looking at which political party we come from,” said Mahlangu. “It’s in our hands. We feel that we’ve empowered ourselves to speak with one voice as women of the nation.”
NGOs face a hostile climate in Zimbabwe today, they told the UN’s Kimberley Curtis:
Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party conference ended with a resolution to “enforce deregistration of errant NGOs deviating from their mandate.” The result has been a growing crackdown on civil society organizations, particularly those involved in human rights. Last week police arrested the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), Okay Machisa on charges of fraud and forgery.
“Four years after violent elections in 2008 led to a power sharing government, Zimbabwe is finally preparing for a referendum on a draft constitution and national elections should be held by the end of the year,” writes Curtis:
This could mark a turning point for Zimbabwe. Unfortunately there are indications – growing political violence, ongoing corruption, lack of substantive reforms – that it could instead serve as a repeat of 2008. In such a polarized political climate, the role of civil society becomes critical.
WOZA and Zimrights are grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.
Hat tip: Jeffrey T. Smith, Africa Advocacy Officer for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.